The three shortest priced players for the Seniors Open have all won regular major championships but only Tom Lehman of him, Bernard Langer and Fred Couples have won the normal tour Open. The 12 players at the head of the betting for the Canadian Open have all travelled from Scotland after playing at Muirfield last week. The highest world ranked player competing in the Russian Open is Robert Rock and he is at number 155 in the current standings.
The week following a major and the Open Championship in particular often sees moderate fields and poorly attended tournaments. However, this year we have the Seniors Open at Royal Birkdale and the national championship of Canada that always attracts large crowds, rewarded this year with several players from the top 50 in the world rankings in attendance.
For many years the Dutch Open was always held on the European Tour the week after the Open. That event often benefited from the appearance of a few players that had played well in the previous week. Unfortunately, the Russian Open has not attracted any player from the top 30 at Muirfield last week. Simon Dyson won two tournaments on the European Tour in 2011 and is the favourite but as the headline act in Russia won’t attract a great deal of media interest.
The Russian Open is being played on a new course but a below average prize fund has done nothing to attract any player of note. However, it will give a lesser known player the opportunity to win a two year exemption to the European Tour so somebody will have a career changing week near Moscow. Robert Rock has the most eye catching recent form. He played in the last group with Tiger Woods at the Abu Dhabi Championship last January and won the tournament.
It often amazes me how poorly attended many European Tour events are and this is highlighted by the live television coverage on Sky. It really is a case of one man and his dog and in many cases even the dog doesn’t turn up. There is only one European Tour event played in England on a regular basis and that is the PGA Championship at Wentworth that attracts huge crowds.
The record attendance for any Open Championship was at Royal Holyoke across the Mersey from Liverpool in 2006. When the Open is played north of the river and along the coat at Birkdale in Southport above average crowds are reported. The north west of England is an absolute hotbed of sport with football, racing, cricket and golf all attracting huge crowds. Muirfield reported lower attendances last week than at their last Open in 2002 but Hoylake should again attract vast crowds when the Open returns to Royal Liverpool next year.
If the North West as a region with two major conurbations of Liverpool and Manchester has an unmatched sporting pedigree the seaside town of Southport has its own sporting claims to fame. Royal Birkdale is one of four championship course in the town, Red Rum was prepared for five Grand Nationals on its beach and ex-Southport FC player Jim Fryatt has scored the fastest goal ever.
The boys from the northern suburbs of Liverpool, stretching from the docklands in Bootle to the commuter towns at Crosby and Formby, will be out in force at Birkdale this week. Yes we do like a drink and all day drinking will be tempting for some but ultimately it’s the world class sport that will get the juices flowing.
The Seniors Open was first held in 1987 and it became part of the European Seniors Tour in 1992. Ten years later it earned major championship status and is now part of the Champions Tour. The field of 144 consists of 120 exempt players and qualifiers from a qualifying event held on the Monday of championship week. Players must be aged 50 or over on the first day of the tournament.
As befits a major championship the Seniors Open has attracted a strong field and only Kenny Perry of the top 20 oldies in the world is not travelling to Southport this week. Fred Couples is a former champion but despite a solid record in the Open never won a Claret Jug. Bernhard Langer won the US Masters twice during his regular career but he is another major champion who never quite won the Open Championship.
Tom Lehman is an interesting contender but this is to date the first year in six that he has not won on the Champions Tour. He was the Open champion at Royal Lytham in 1996 and made the cut at Muirfield last week. He clearly has a game well suited to links golf and scores highly in the key skill areas for decent scoring at Birkdale.
The Canadian Open now has a regular slot on the US Tour in the week after the Open. The tournament is generally taken to several courses around Canada but this year’s host course at Glen Abbey near Ontario has staged the tournament more than any other. It is one of just three national Opens on the US PGA Tour and as such is a prestigious prize.
In the context of contending in Canada this week mental letdown from the unique playing conditions at Muirfield last week must be a factor. At various stages of the Open Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Dustin Johnson all probably felt they had a chance to win. Snedeker’s third round spoilt his chances but he still managed a second successive top 20 finish in the third major of the season.
Luke Donald missed the cut by a mile last week so he is still striving for that elusive first major. At least Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter got in the mix but Donald and Justin Rose were never factors. Rose can be forgiven for mental letdown after his US Open win but Donald must have been gutted with such a poor effort. Graeme McDowell made the cut without contending and he is the only other player in the world to win on the two main Tours this year, alongside Phil Mickelson off course.
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